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​How to Tell Your Lawn Mower Starter Solenoid is Bad: SOLVED!

I jumped on my lawn mower to start it and all I heard was a clicking sound when I went to start my mower. Electrical problems can be pretty hard to diagnose and take a lot of time to narrow down the issue.

It’s a good idea to narrow down the problem and not throw expensive parts at the mower hoping it fixes the issue. 

Here are some of my favorite items I use when testing my battery and diagnosing electrical items on my lawn mower: volt-ohms meter, battery charger, and continuity light.

Additional guides that may help:

Lawn mower solenoid

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

What Is a Lawn Mower Solenoid? 

A lawn mower solenoid is an on/off switch of sorts. It is an electromagnet switch that is actuated to engage the starter motor to turn your engine over. The solenoid can be found mounted on the starter. However, it does not have to be mounted on the starter to do its job. 

Some lawn mower solenoids can be found mounted closer to the battery than the starter. 

Three & Four Post Solenoids 

This is a typical wire schematic of three and four-post solenoids. Remember, not all wire schematics are the same for every lawn mower. Some schematics will include wiring for options like lights and 12-volt ports. These diagrams only show the basic wiring schematic. 

3-4-Post-Starter Solenoids

How to Identify Your Lawn Mower Solenoid? 

Your solenoid may be round or square in shape with either 3 or 4 posts sticking out of it. You will find some solenoids attached right to the top of the starter and others attached to the frame.

The positive (+) wire from the battery attaches to one side of the solenoid. Following the positive wire from the battery is an easy way to find your solenoid.  

You will find solenoids on every electric start engine. Not only will you find solenoids on electric start lawn mowers, but you will also find them in trucks, cars, and tractors. 

What Causes a Lawn Mower Solenoid to Go Bad? 

A solenoid is an electrical switch. As we all know, an electrical item can fail at any time.  

Inside the solenoid, you will find a spring and copper plate. A lawn mower solenoid can go bad if the spring gets weak or the copper plate starts to corrode. The solenoid can also fail as a result of a weak starter, bad battery, or bad ground.  

It is good to know what to look for when you are diagnosing a solenoid. 

Symptoms of a Bad Solenoid on a Riding Lawn Mower 

A riding lawn mower solenoid may be bad when you hear a click or hum when you turn the ignition key and your mower doesn’t start. Another indication your solenoid may be bad is when a wire gets hot and begins to smoke or melt. 

Steps to Diagnose a Bad Lawn Mower Solenoid 

List Tools Needed: 

  • Volt-Ohms Meter 
  • Screwdriver 
  • Continuity Light
  • Wrenches to check for loose wires 
  • Needle Nose Pliers (If screwdriver does not work) 
  • Battery Charger (Optional) 

If you are going to diagnose the solenoid on your lawn mower, there are a few ways to do so. 

1. Make Sure Your Battery Has a Full Charge

Use your voltmeter to make sure your battery has at least 12.3 volts in it. Read more about testing your battery in our article “5 Things That Are Draining the Life of Your Lawn Mower Battery“.

2. Get Your Mower Ready to Start

  • Set the parking brake
  • Make sure your lawn mower is in neutral
  • Turn the key to the on position

3. Bypass the Starter Solenoid Using a Screwdriver

Lay a long screwdriver over the solenoid to touch the two cables to bypass the starter. The two cables you are looking for are the cable from the battery and cable to the starter.

It may throw a spark when the screwdriver makes contact with the wires. This is common so don’t be alarmed.

If the engine happens to turn over while you have your solenoid bypassed there is a good chance your solenoid is bad. If the screwdriver does not work well, you can also use needle nose pliers to jump the solenoid. 
You may only have loose wires or bad ground so you will need to check these items out before you replace the solenoid. 

4. Test the Solenoid

Solenoids that are mounted on the starter can be tested. Remove the starter from the engine and test the solenoid with a battery charger. This is a good way to watch if the starter is working with the solenoid. 
Once the starter has been removed from your lawn mower, you need to attach the negative (-) clamp to the case of the starter and touch the positive (+) clamp to the big post and exciter wire on the solenoid. This is just a quick bench test when the starter is out. 

Can You Bypass a Lawn Mower Solenoid? 

A lawn mower solenoid can be bypassed by placing a long screwdriver from across the solenoid from touching the cable from the battery to the cable to the starter. Be careful. The connection could cause a spark which is normal.  

Another reason why your mower may not start is due to water in the electrical system. Read our article “Why Your Mower Won’t Start After Leaving in the Rain”. 

Starter Solenoid FAQ

What are symptoms of a faulty solenoid?

Symptoms of a faulty solenoid are a clicking or humming sound when turning the ignition key, wiring getting hot and smoking, and the starter engaging and not disengaging after letting go of the ignition key.

What happens when a solenoid fails?

When the starter solenoid fails, it will not provide the current required to engage the starter motor to turn over the engine.

Why does my starter click but no crank?

A starter may click but not crank or turn over when the solenoid isn’t providing the power to turn over the starter. This may be due to a weak battery, loose or corroded wiring, or a faulty starter solenoid.

What does a solenoid do on a riding lawn mower?

A lawn mower solenoid is an on/off switch of sorts. It is an electromagnet switch that is actuated to engage the starter motor by sending more current to turn over the engine.

Where is my lawn mower solenoid?

The lawn mower solenoid is either attached to the top of the starter motor or to the frame of the mower. You can easily locate the solenoid by following the positive red cable from the battery to the solenoid.

Still Having Problems with Your Lawn Mower?

Lawn mower ownership doesn’t come without its frustrations. Own a mower long enough, you are bound to run into many lawn mower problems including starting, smoking, leaking, cutting, and overheating.

For mower troubleshooting, check out my guide Common Lawn Mower Problems: Solved.

Doug Newman

Monday 24th of July 2023

Had a person to replace my 2 drive belts. He said he had always done this before. No problem and would only take 30 minutes. 2 hours later he told me it was good I put the battery in and noticed a spark. I cranked it up and the belt at the engine was smoking so I immediately shut it down. I went to remove the battery and the terminals were so hot that It was burning my fingers. Had another so called mechanic. He said belts looked good. Hooking up battery it sparked before he tightened it up. Unhooked and got my multimeter and checked from battery + and - and it was dead short. He said it was solenoid. Made me jumpers to check old solenoid and bought new just in case. Haven’t checked old yet. I think the rascals who put the new belts on pinched the wiring harness. It’s aYard Man Mtd 42”


Saturday 24th of June 2023

Motor stopped in the middle of mowing for no reason at all. Would not crank over then. I think now it could be my solenoid bad I will check it out , but whey would it just shut down?

Powered Equipment Team

Sunday 25th of June 2023

The starter solenoid is used to engage the starter motor to start the mower. It will not cause your mower to quit running after it's started, but it will keep a mower from starting. I would check the safety switches on your mower. A bad switch can cause the mower to stop running and also be a reason your mower won't start.

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